Bell back from the brink

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Thirteen months ago, Graeme Bell was lying in a Saskatoon hospital wondering if he would even live a normal life again.

The Blue Bombers fullback had just suffered a head injury after being assaulted by an idiot wielding a baseball bat.

Tomorrow night, Bell will once again be an integral part of the Blue Bombers roster when Winnipeg plays host to the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL season-opener for both sides.

Simply amazing.

"Considering that he had to have his head opened up and a plate put in there, yeah," Bombers head coach Doug Berry said yesterday. "He's come back very committed. He's stronger than he's ever been. He has absolutely no repercussions from his injury.

"He's a smart guy, he totally understands what we're doing and is a very physical football player. He's trained very hard to be where he's at today, and it shows. He's ready to play. You wouldn't think he's missed any time at all."

Yet, Bell was told at the time it was unlikely that he would ever play pro football again.

"That was the goal since Day 1," said Bell, who could not talk immediately after suffering the wound. "This happened three weeks before last season started and I had to write on a piece of paper, 'When will the doctors let me play?' And they said, probably not. From then on, I said I'm going to be back.

"You always want to walk away on your own and that was the whole motivation on getting back here."

And now, after a year off, the 5-foot-10, 229-pound Regina native is indeed back.

"I'm excited," said Bell, 27. "I'm anxious to get back on the field. I've been anxious for the last two weeks ... I'm not nervous. I have confidence in the doctors' prognosis."

With any head injury, there is always a danger of a recurrence.

"Obviously, there is some question but there is virtually no concern," Bell said. "The doctors are confident and everything. I tested it through training camp here. So, I'm really confident that guys can come out and hit me as hard as they want and I'm sure that nothing would happen."

Such steely determination to overcome such a serious injury should be inspiration for others going through the same sort of thing.

"I don't know if it has been," Bell said with a shrug. "To be honest with you, Obby Khan's story is the one that has been an inspiration. Man, that guy's been through everything."

The Bomber centre had off-season surgeries to repair torn triceps and remove his large intestine while his father was dying of cancer.

But Bell has had lots of support from family and friends.

"When they put up the final roster, I got e-mails and phone calls from people saying congratulations so, that was a big day for me," he said. "Had they put a note on my locker that day and sent me home, I would have thought, 'Well, I got back here and this is really what I wanted to do,' and I would have gone home and gotten on with life.

"The primary goal was to get back here, and it's winning the Grey Cup now."

Towards that end, Berry lamented Bell's loss to the various special teams units several times last season.

"He'll get total utilization (on special teams) and still be able to help us on offence, too," Berry said. "And he can kick field goals."

Bell is the backup placekicker.

"Coach Berry came up to me the other day and asked, 'How are you feeling?'" Bell said. "I said, 'Well, my legs are fresh.' It's been 19 months since my last game so, I'm excited."


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